Monday, February 8, 2016

In Which I Sing the Poor Girl’s E-Book Formatting Blues

Here’s the good news: My novel, The Single Eye, is almost ready for publication.  The plot holes are all plugged (I hope!), the themes are all resolved, the content is (fingers crossed!) set.  True,  my current beta reader is still picking up typos and extra spaces here and there.  But she’s got time to get back to me even if it’s not until the beginning of next month, because before I can publish the thing, I have to learn some whole new skills.

Skills involving computers, and software, and programming code.  All the techie stuff that’ll let me come up with a gripping cover and help me format the text so it’ll look good not only on e-book readers but also— God willing the demand is there!— when it’s printed out in paperback.  This book has got to be a specimen of good design.  It’s about a pair of highly-skilled architects, after all.  I want tasteful, appropriate, and distinctive chapter titles, drop caps, and scene-separating fleurons, and I want to insert them so they a) don’t morph into something else, and b) stay put when the e-book reader jiggers around with the body font.

In general, I’m good at learning new computer programs.  I taught myself InDesign from scratch ten years ago when I had to turn out a fundraising catalogue in less than a week.  If I owned a copy of it I’d use it to crank out the cover and the formatting, both.

But which one to learn?  I don’t own InDesign, or Adobe PhotoShop, or CorelDraw, nor am I likely to unless I make decent money off the sales of this book.  Right now I have to make do with what I’ve got, or with what I can get on line.  The problem is figuring out what I do have, and avoiding any problems using it.

But wait a minute.  Didn’t I buy the professional version of WordPerfect X6 back in 2014 precisely because it came with an e-book publishing template?

I’ve been experimenting with it today, and it looks promising.  But will it do all I need it to?  What about the extra features I want?  The advice I read online is all over the place.  “Don’t use tabs in your copy; use Word’s paragraph styles thinga-ma-jig!” “Avoid special fonts, headers, and footers, which do not translate into Kindle format”!   “Use CSS with HTML to delineate what your chapter headings look like”!  It doesn’t seem to agree, and it may conflict with what I’m doing in WPX6.  What am I supposed to believe?

I’m not saying I can’t figure all this out.  But I wish I could learn it cleanly and efficiently and all from one place, instead of blowing my very limited free time looking all over creation for it.